Peer Review

From the Editor

In the past five years, through the LEAP initiative, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has articulated and championed an ambitious set of outcomes for student learning, working with a range of constituencies and partners. However, as stated in the LEAP Report, College Learning for the New Global Century, “While recognized leaders can make higher achievement a priority, faculty and teachers who work directly with students are the only ones who can make it actually happen.”

This issue of Peer Review explores the rewards and challenges of faculty work from the vantage point of administrators and faculty from a wide range of institutions. Exploring multiple issues, including faculty recruitment, diversity, development, and retention, these articles consider the challenges that institutions and their faculties face as they consider how they will educate tomorrow’s students. And while the opportunities for future faculty are many, these articles also address the potential obstacles current and future faculty face. Given these challenges, where will we find faculty members to carry on the traditions of the academy? To create new traditions? To deliver our essential learning outcomes?

I didn’t have to look very far to find one candidate for the job. Rebecca Dolinsky, a newly minted PhD in sociology who currently works in the AAC&U development office, is taking a breath after her June graduation from the University of California, Santa Cruz, before launching her search on the academic job market. When I asked her why she wants to join the academy at this time of uncertainty, she enthusiastically shared her thoughts about the future of the faculty and her place in it.

“Teaching undergraduates is a very rewarding and fun experience for me. It is, indeed, a very difficult time right now, but I haven’t once wavered in my commitment to undergraduate education. I believe, wholeheartedly, in the opportunities offered by higher education—opportunities for young adults to learn and grow intellectually, to find their passions in life. Being one of the people who helps guide new generations of students down that exciting path is a privilege for me. I also really enjoy teaching from a sociological perspective. Sociology provides such a useful and important lens to help understand the shifting world that surrounds us,” she says. As her first step toward becoming a faculty member, Rebecca will be teaching as an adjunct at Loyola University Maryland this coming spring, with long-term goals of finding a tenure-track position and turning her dissertation into a book. With passionate and capable scholars like Rebecca entering the academy, the future of the faculty seems bright.

This issue of Peer Review, sponsored by the Faculty Resource Network (FRN), is presented in the spirit of this future cohort. I had the pleasure of working on it with Debra Szybinski, the group’s executive director, and Trace Jordan, FRN’s director of special projects. FRN hosts lectures, symposia, and intensive seminars, all of which are designed to improve the quality of teaching and learning at its member and affiliate institutions. Last November, I joined Debra and Trace at FRN’s fall 2009 national symposium, “Challenge as Opportunity: The Academy in the Best and Worst of Times” in Atlanta, Georgia. This meeting, held in conjunction with the Leadership Alliance consortium, brought together more than two hundred attendees from over eighty institutions on the Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College campuses.

At the symposium, I sat in on a session in which a group of writing committees and other conference participants reacted to and discussed short papers on several aspects of faculty matters. To further the conversation, Joe Berger, a moderator from the New York Times, posed provocative questions to committee chairs. The result of this exercise yielded the informative Practice articles found in this issue. Through the collected wisdom and experiences of authors from twenty-six institutions, this edition of Peer Review offers a long view on the changes we anticipate on our campuses, with strategies to meet them head on.

By partnering with FRN on this important topic, AAC&U continues our commitment to faculty issues. The future of the faculty may be unknown, but our forthcoming professors, if liberally educated, will be equipped to handle all of the challenges before them. To this point, AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider’s words to the academy are as relevant today as they were when she wrote a Liberal Education President’s Message back in 2002: “Colleges and universities that pride themselves in offering a liberal education could themselves insist that their new faculty appointments also must be liberally—not narrowly—educated. And that, in itself, would be a cultural revolution with far-reaching consequences.”

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